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Trains in Italy question

Hi - this is my second thread on Italy. We were trying to book trains from various cities in Italy (Rome to Florence, then to Venice, etc) for our trip next month. My wife also wanted to see if we could also go to Switzerland for a couple of days as well.

Well, the price for train tickets was like over $400, and then we were told we had to spend more money to make reservations on the train, which were another charge of over $400. The total for just the trains was like $900, which was over $100 more than our round trip flights between JFK and Rome.

Is this correct? We need to buy train tickets, and then buy train reservations?

Thanks

Posted by
10 posts

it was through raileurope.com, I believe?

Posted by
8906 posts

That's what I suspected:) Rail Europe is a rip off, and will always overcharge you. You can get the real fares by heading to the official Italian Rail site: www.trenitalia.com

You can't book advance tickets from the US, but tickets are easily obtained once you arrive in Italy, and at a fraction of the the prices Rail Europe will charge you.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks - would we have a problem finding train tickets to get from Rome to Florence, and then to Venice and then to Milan once we get to Italy?

We'd be arriving in Rome in the morning on April 5 and leaving April 14.

Posted by
31055 posts

Jeff,

I'd suggest that you check each of the train trips you'll be taking, using either the bahn.de website or Trenitalia. Make a note of the trips and then just buy your tickets at the first opportunity when you arrive in Italy. It's not usually too difficult to get tickets, especially if you buy them a few days before you'll be travelling.

One of our rail experts here (Tim or Norm) would be able to tell you which fares (eg: Amica) would be the most cost effective.

I wouldn't bother pre-ordering, especially from Rail Europe unless have an unlimited travel budget! When you buy tickets in Europe, these will include the reservation fees if required for a particular route).

Happy travels!

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks Ken & Michael - that was a big help.

Posted by
20718 posts

Jeff, someone once posted that there were 53 trains between Florence and Rome each day holding as many people as two or three 747s. I will not vouch for those numbers but, needless to say, there are generally two or three trains an hour ranging from locals to high speed. If a seat reservation is required it is priced in the ticket when you buy it. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE. A few Amica fares (20% discount) are available 24 hours in advance BUT Italian trains are so cheap that the discount is not that significant. We also go second class.

Posted by
4555 posts

Jeff...the advice given so far has been excellent...simply buy them all when you arrive in Rome. Amica fares at 20% off may still be available for some or all of your routes...as long as you know what your itinerary will be. It must be my Scottish blood because, unlike Frank, a 20% savings is something I can't pass up! Better than, as we say up here, a kick in the rear end with a frozen boot!

Posted by
20718 posts

Norm, I agree for a long run. But saving $4 on a $25 ticket is not that critical. Saving $40 on a $200 ticket is. I thought out ticket to Florence was about $25 and another $60 to Milan.

Posted by
4555 posts

Hey...$16 is $16! And no reason NOT to take advantage of them!

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks again, everybody. I assume when you say to buy the tickets in Italy, I would just purchase them at the train station?

And, would I be okay doing this without being able to speak Italian? (Well, beyond "Buon Giorno" and a few other simple phrases like that)

Thanks

Posted by
1164 posts

You can probably buy the tickets at a travel agent as well as the train station. I think the fares are the same. Knowing how to say "one way" and/or "return" or "roundtrip" is very helpful.

Posted by
6898 posts

Jeff, I'm the person who posted the 53 trains a day between Rome and Florence. It's true. I counted the runs on the Trenitalia website. The Eurostar fare for this run is 36.10Euro. As mentioned above, if you buy your tickets when you first arrive in Rome, you have a chance at the 20% off Amica fare. These are limited discounts on the trains based on day, train and class. They go fast but you should try. We have posters on the site that say they were able to get them.

BTW, when you buy a point-to-point ticket in Italy, the seat reservation comes with it. Nothing extra. You don't need a railpass for Italy. We often do price comparisons on the site and the P2P most often easily beats out the cost of the railpass plus the supplemental fees that Italy charges for riding on the Eurostars (18Euro per ride).

For Switzerland, it's about 8.5hrs to get from Venice or the CT to Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen. If you want more information, ask away, I can provide some good info.

Posted by
10 posts

Larry - how about Milan to Switzerland? We're interested in the Glacier Express train "tour" - Would we need to go to San Moritz, or could we go to Zermatt or San Moritz?

Posted by
6898 posts

Jeff, technically, the Glacier Express runs from Zermatt to St. Moritz. But, from Milan, your train travel will most likely be from Milan to Brig. Brig is a western point on the GE run.

You have choices. At the Brig train station, you walk out of the station to another set of tracks about 200 feet away. On the Swiss train site, it shows a 7 minute walk from Brig to Brig Bahnhofplatz. It's the 200 foot walk I just described.

From this point, you can go southwest to Zermatt and see the Matterhorn. A Brig/Zermatt round trip will take about 3.0hrs to 3.5hrs. But to go East to St. Moritz, you're back in Brig.

Secondly, you can take the GE from Brig to St. Moritz. The one-way trip takes almost 7.0hrs. So much for the "Express" stuff. We went as far as Disentis and then caught a regular local train back to Brig. About 3hrs out and 3hrs back for this one. It was really scenic and relaxing. Alternatively, you can go from Brig to Chur and from Chur take trains to other locations.

If you want to narrow this down a bit, message back and we can keep working on it.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks Larry - that was a big help. I will let you know if I need any more info.

Posted by
31055 posts

Jeff,

"And, would I be okay doing this without being able to speak Italian?"

I've found that many ticket agents speak at least some degree of English. If you speak slowly, avoid slang and enunciate carefully you shouldn't have any trouble buying tickets at the window (rather than a machine). This is the method Rick suggests in his books and it seems to work most of the time.

You might want to pack along a Phrasebook and learn some of the common greetings and more importantly some of the "railway terms" (ie: track = binario, departure = partenza, exit = uscita, entrance = ingresso, etc.)

Cheers!

Posted by
20718 posts

A couple more things. We prefer the ticket machine because we can take our time and double check everything and the machine are in British. However, some machine will only take the European credit card with the chip. But the older machine are available and easily identified by the American tourist who are using them. Second, you have to know the Italian spelling where you are going -- i.e. Florence is Frenza (sp?)

Third, if traveling out of Italy, that is considered international, and you have to use the international agent and show a passport. I write down on a slip of paper, where I want to go, times, one way, etc. That will help the conversation if the agent is short on English -- which is rare.

Posted by
31055 posts

Frank,

Good point, I forgot to mention that it's necessary to use the European names for cities. Some examples:

  • Florence = Firenze

  • Rome = Roma

  • Munich = Munchen (I believe there's an Umlaut in the word, but don't know how to make this computer do that).

  • Prague = Praha

One other thing to note is that there is often more than one station in a city, so it's important to choose the correct one! The main station in Rome is Roma Termini while in Florence it's Firenze S.M.N. (S.M.N. stands for "Santa Maria Novella" which is the beautiful old Church located right across the street from the station). The station in Venice is Venezia Santa Lucia.

Cheers!

Posted by
16 posts

Jeff,

You may already be planning to do so, however thought I'd suggest that when choosing your trains, it's worth going on the faster routes (EuroStar, etc.) and NOT taking the slower longer runs which make more stops. To save a few dollars, purchase 2nd class (segundo classe); there really isn't a significant different between 1st / 2nd on the high-end fast trains.

Posted by
668 posts

Jeff,

In 2004, I bought state side, four day Italy Flexi Railpasses for two, totaling $438.

This turned out to be an expensive mistake and we would have done better with point-to-point tickets bought at the train stations.

Learned my lesson; and we now just do point-to-point, with out reservations, and also use the city-to-city BUS system which is even less expensive when available.

Posted by
844 posts

Jeff, If you haven't traveled on trains in Italy, I thought I'd mention that you must get the ticket validated right before you board. There are yellow boxes at the end of the tracks, you stick your ticket in, it's validated and keep your ticket with you the whole time you're on the train. It may be checked sometime during the trip.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
83 posts

FYI The Glacier Express trains only towards Zermatt a couple times a day and they all leave around the same time. Don't assume you can just hop on a Glacier Express. From 5/15 through the summer season the trains arrive in Brig between 3pm-5pm and then go onwards to Zermatt. Those are the only Glacier Express trains in that direction for the whole day. Use this link for GE planning http://www.glacierexpress.ch/timetableandprices/summer2008.php

Posted by
40 posts

I had the same dilemma,whether to book before we went,or wait until we got there.Granted,we went in September,but had NO difficulty purchasing tickets on the day we needed them(although in CT-Monterrosso-the main ticket office to buy anything other than a local ticket was closed on the weekend)There were fairly long lines at the ticket counters,and the tellers were not particularly frindly or willing to speak English,though,so a little Italian is helpful.

Posted by
51 posts

I am considering buying the three day Eurail Italy Pass myself for $199 (2nd class). I will be taking a train from Rome to Venice, Venice to Florence, and Florence to Rome within a ten day period. My question about the Eurail Italy Pass is this - is it for a specific train?